Published March 10, 2021
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences leaders are playing key roles in safely, efficiently and equitably getting Western New York residents vaccinated against COVID-19 through an initiative called Vaccinate Western New York (VAXWNY).
Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, is a member of the Western New York Vaccine Hub leadership team, which is headed by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and also includes Mark A. Sullivan, Catholic Health president and CEO, and Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., PhD, president and CEO of the Erie County Medical Center.
Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for health policy and clinical professor of medicine, is leading the hub’s planning group for Western New York. She meets daily with county health department leaders throughout the region to understand their needs and help implement their vaccine distribution plans.
As a hub, the Western New York leadership group has primary responsibility in its five-county region for identifying regional partners, working with local health departments, overseeing communication and educating the community about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, is teaming with Quatroche to coordinate activities by the WNY Hub’s Health Equity Task Force (HETF). Murphy is also director of UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute.
The HETF has more than three dozen members, including medical professionals, health care organizations, faith-based clergy, community groups and community members who are implementing plans to ensure that people in their counties receive the vaccine, including those who are vulnerable and those in underserved communities.
Vaccination is the most effective way to significantly reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, which has been responsible for more than 500,000 deaths in the United States in the past year.
But widespread vaccination has proven to be exceedingly difficult in communities across the United States due to short supplies of the vaccine and the difficulty of coordinating distribution to large populations. In addition, many people in underserved communities are reluctant to be vaccinated.
VAXWNY is one of 10 vaccination hubs across the state established by the state Department of Health for the purpose of distributing the vaccines as the supply of doses increases in the coming weeks.
VAXWNY also includes more than 530 health care providers who have registered to help vaccinate residents throughout Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.